Friday 22 March 1985

Two More Village Guides From Bruce


Following on the heels of his previously scholarly sketches of Warminster's surrounding villages, which have included Crockerton, Imber, Upton Scudamore and Bishopstrow, Mr Bruce Watkin has now published two more highly informative and historical guides.

Sutton Veny and Corsley are the subjects of his latest offerings and like the others, appear upon a single folded A4 sheet of paper, making some avid reading for local residents, local historians and the plain curious amongst us.

Writing about Sutton Veny in the Wylye Valley, Mr Watkin, who lives at Crockerton and is the Chairman of the Warminster Civic Trust, tells us: ". . . A kite-shaped parish, six square miles in extent, with a tail stretching south up chalk hills to the downland of the Great Ridge and a wide head spreading over the low plateau of Upper Greensand folded in a great bend of the river Wylye."

"There are a number of Bronze Age barrows close to the presumed line of the prehistoric 'great' Ridgeway and remains of an important Roman villa at Pitmead (formerly an outlier of Warminster parish) but there is no evidence of an early nucleated settlement. There were three medieval nuclei: at Newham on the present crossroads; at Sutton Magna, centred on Duck Street and the disused church; and Sutton Parva, adjoining Tytherington."

"There was also the somewhat later development of another hamlet at Sutton End near Crockerton, which was in a strip of the parish stretching along Five Ash Lane and across the Wylye. The hamlet and all the strip west of the Wylye was transferred to Longbridge Deverill in 1935."

"The name 'Sutton' means the south farm (Norton Bavant was the north). 'Fenny' means marshy but the suffix may come not from the marshy nature of the northern part of the parish but from some unknown Norman family name."

"The settlements are all on the Greensand but there is a wide belt of woodland on the west, long an ill-defined area shared with Longbridge; and with the damp meadows to the north and the thin dry soils of the downs to the south a good variety of landscape and land use. But the parish has few other natural advantages. It was on a Saxon route along the south side of the Wylye from Wilton to Warminster and the 18th century turnpike road from Heytesbury to Bruton crossed it at Newnham but these were never important trade routes and the villages had neither market nor fair. They neverthesless remained relatively prosperous from an early date."

"At the time of the Domesday survey (1086) the manor was divided between three landowners and the total population was about 110, while its value had increased since 1066. It is the only parish in Wiltshire for which we have any livestock figures. William of Mohun who had one third of the land, kept one horse and 300 sheep. It was an important sheep-rearing area in the later Middle Ages though subsidiary to the great Hungerford sheep farms at Heytesbury. In 1377 there were 33 poll tax payers at Newnham, 82 at Sutton Magna and 36 at Sutton Parva, while in 1576 there were 20 payers of the 'super tax' in Sutton Magna (then including Newnham) and 5 at Sutton Parva."

"Two mills mentioned in the Domesday survey have a long history, one serving the Parva manor and one to the NE serving Magna. Mount Mill, that to the NE, was a fulling mill by the 15th century when owned by the Hungerfords, was later bought by the Benetts of Norton Bavant and was used by Joseph Everett of Heytesbury as part of his cloth-making chain in the early 19th century but disused by the middle of the century. The other mill to the west is now called Job's Mill and is described later. But apart from the cloth made, or at least fulled, at Mount Mill, there has been negligible manufacture in the parish which has been almost exclusively agricultural, although it retains one pub and a village store."

"The population at the end of the 17th century was probably about 350. By the beginning of the 19th century it had climbed, thanks to agricultural prosperity, to 622 and from this it grew fitfully to 881 by 1871 before declining like most rural parishes in the county for many decades. It was 601 in 1931 and in spite of the huge army camps here in both World Wars little trace shows in post-war years. By 1951 the population was below 500. The figure today is about 490."

"Unlike many other parishes nearby, Sutton Veny has been divided between many owners for three hundred years. This is because the two principal manors which had been owned by the Hungerford family (of Heytesbury and Farleigh Hungerford) were bought by Sir Stephen Fox in 1685 and immediately resold in small parcels. Nevertheless, parts were held, as Southleigh Wood still is, by the Longleat Estate and other large parts were acquired by the Astleys of Bishopstrow (and Everleigh) and by the Benetts of Norton Bavant. The Everetts of Heytesbury did well enough in their cloth business to buy the Greenhill estate from the Hintons who had been there since before the Reformation, first as tenants of Maiden Bradley Priory and they rebuilt and enlarged the house now called Sutton Veny House. The other large houses, the Old Manor House (formerly a rectory) and Polebridge are now divorced from their former farmlands."

"Meanwhile, in the 19th century, the old hamlets of Great Sutton and Newnham were joined by almost continuous building of small cottages along the High Street and the whole was visually and to some extent socially, unified by the building of the new church with its prominent spire between the two, in 1868, and the National School was transferred next door. Major changes since then, concentrated since World War II, have been the addition of Council Houses at the southern end of the village and the rapid 'gentrification' of the small houses in this increasingly popular village."

Also included, in the guide is a sketch map and details of a village walk connecting some seventeen houses and buildings which makes an interesting excursion for both villagers and visitors alike. The guide concludes with some information on Job's Mill, the home of the Marquess of Bath.